Following something of an Indian Autumn, Mull is now back to its default Winter weather setting: horrid.

Torrential rain, cyclonic wind and dour sky aside, I did manage to escape the office for a paltry hour and a half of fresh air.

It’s been a pretty difficult year on the island. As a community, it seems that everyone has been touched by loss and sadness. Sitting cross-legged above a blustery cliff face, my gaze wandered out to sea and I allowed myself time to reflect.

George, who is always annoyed when we sit down during a walk, harrumphed and stomped about in protest. In his opinion walks are strictly for walking.

Across the Sound, the Westward finger of Ardnamurchan was banded in gold. I let my eyes trail over the familiar profile; drinking in the spent bracken, which had now transcended the beauty of its living form.

Movement caught my eye. Raising my binoculars, I found a skein of Whooper swans flying near to where the lighthouse lies. There were fourteen of them.

Whoopers are my joint favourite Big White Bird – the other being the Gannet. I like the strange juxtaposition of these two: one carries summer, the other marks the onset of winter.

The swans travelled further out to sea than I expected. For a few moments, they appeared to skim over the hills of Coll as they made their way south. Their loveliness was like a sip of cool water.

George, finally, was still. I sighed and dropped my binoculars to my chest. Noting his pricked ears and intent expression, I followed his gaze to the shore below. He was watching two otters rolling about in the weed.

I grinned and wondered what he made of them.

Sometimes, being a person is tough. Life simply gets us down. When misfortune strikes, I turn to the wild things for solace.

Watching those birds, at least a few of my cares left upon their downy backs.

A wonderful festive season to you all,

Stephanie Cope

Whooper Swans